The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is easy to see in part because it’s so big it can fit three Earths inside of it.
The spot is actually a huge red storm that has been raging for at least 400 years.
It’s consistently been shrinking but lately the rate at which it’s shrinking has dramatically increased. The spot is decreasing in size 580 miles per year, which is about the distance from Chicago to Washington D.C.
Senior astronomer and amateur scientist at the Link Observatory in Martinsville John Shepherd says the shrinking spot is a mystery.
“Looking at the results of the images over the past, I think they pushed out about 3 images that showed how the Great Red Spot was actually decreasing in size,” Shepherd says. “So something’s taking away the energy that’s powering it.”
In 2012, amateur astronomers began noticing the spot shrinking faster than before.
Shepherd says amateur scientists play a huge role in astronomical discoveries. He says while there are many people doing research at places like NASA, there aren’t enough people there to look at everything in the sky.
If the Great Red Spot continues to shrink at the same rate, it will become a circle, rather than its current oval shape, by 2040.